Another city better than this one.

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Joseph Gandy, Sir John Soane‘s Study, 1822.

The City

by Constantine P. Cavafy

You said: “I’ll go to another country, to another shore,
Find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
And my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
Where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country; another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
In the same neighborhoods, turn grey in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
There’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve waisted your life here, in this small corner,
You’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

Quoted in Donald Preziosi, Brain of the Earth’s Body: Art, Museums, and the Phantasms of Modernity, 2003, pp 1-2.

Cavafy’s 1910 poem is from C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems, ed. George Savidis and trans. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, 1992.

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